With the first waves of fall migrant ducks and geese starting to show up in Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is reminding eager hunters about the changes for the 2008-09 migratory waterfowl season.

The season on canvasbacks is closed this year, which represents a big change from last year's two canvasbacks allowed in the daily bag for the entire season. Despite a lower than anticipated harvest last year, the annual breeding waterfowl survey showed a decline in canvasback population below the 500,000 threshold needed to open the season for at least 30 days. Consequently, there is no open season for canvasbacks in the entire Mississippi Flyway this year. 

In 2007, Louisiana harvested more canvasbacks than any other state in the Mississippi Flyway taking 40 percent of the total flyway harvest. Although many Louisiana hunters have limited opportunities in the habitats they hunt, canvasbacks are regularly taken at Catahoula Lake, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area (WMA), and the deltaic marshes and flats near the mouth of the Mississippi River. 

The bag limit on scaup, sometimes referred to as bluebills or dos gris, has been reduced to one per day for the first 40 days of the 60-day duck season. Scaup populations have been declining since 1984, and although small population increases were seen the past two years, scaup remain 30 percent below their long-term average. 

Despite widespread controversy over the scientific value of its population model, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented a scaup harvest management strategy that calls for additional harvest restrictions. Therefore instead of two scaup per day for the entire season, like the last two seasons, the bag limit on scaup is one per day through Dec. 29 in the West Zone and Jan. 5 in the East Zone. On Dec. 30 in the West Zone and Jan. 6 in the East Zone, the bag limit increases to two per day. 

Hunters in areas where scaup and ring-necked ducks co-exist need to be particularly attentive, as the bag limit on ringnecks remains six per day. Scaup and ringnecks can be tough to distinguish on the wing, so hunters should be extra careful in identifying their targets.

Conversely, the bag limit on wood ducks has increased to three per day for this season. So while hunters need to exercise caution with regard to the closed canvasback season and reduced bag limit for scaup, they can take part in the added harvest opportunities on this sporty bird.